+GIVING VOICE TO THE INEXPLICABLE: DISSOCIATION – DEPERSONALIZATION – DEREALIZATION

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This is one of those posts I don’t have words to write about.  This is one of those posts that people who experience the ‘3 Ds’ in this title will understand because they feel in their body what I am going to describe — even though I doubt I have the words I need to do so.

Google searching the words “dissociation depersonalization derealization child abuse” will bring up a host of pages to look at that are probably more clearly written than this post will be!  But a lack of words is not going to stop me from trying to describe what I have been feeling today.

I know where ‘these feelings’ come from for me.  Being a victim of insane psychotic mad woman abuse by my mother from birth until I left home at 18 did ‘this’ to me.  Everyone who experiences the ‘3 Ds’ has a story of extreme trauma and abuse to tell.  None of ‘us’ were born this way.  We were MADE this way directly through repeated severe trauma exposure most likely in our earliest developmental years of infancy and childhood.

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My mother’s abuse continually interrupted my own early experience of myself in my own life.  Today I would describe this as being continually ripped out of my own reality by brutal verbal and physical attacks.  My mother’s own MOVIE continually interrupted my experience.

Because these attacks against me began before I had words, before I even knew how to identify sounds with their sources, before I had a chance to even know what a person was — let alone who I was — the ‘3 Ds’ were built into my growing and developing body, nervous system, stress response system and brain.

Today the word MOVIE is very much in the center of the focus of my thoughts.  I — as a person in a body — experienced my life today as if my body and I are separate, as if my body is a vehicle I am ‘driving around in’.

There is a great sense of remoteness to the experience of the ‘3 Ds’.  Not only is this sense of distance, numbness and remoteness involved in my sense of being in a body, it is also involved in my sense of others in my world.  Each person I saw today, each snippet of conversation I heard, all seemed to be in MOVIES — other people’s movies that have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with me.

This is not a social connectedness feeling.  True, the people I encountered today were mostly ‘strangers’, but they do share the social species I belong to.  There is, I suspect, a common assumption among people that we share certain common experiences — and being in a body in the middle of one’s own experience as it is happening is probably one of them.

These multiple MOVIES overlap one another.  The sounds of people talking — and often the sounds around me in the environment — often have no meaning to me, either.  My guess is that I could explain this experience in part by saying that when a person hears a sound suddenly in the environment that they do not immediately recognize, often a degree of attention is devoted to the sound until the source and nature of the sound are identified.

I watched a woman today interact with her cell phone that suddenly changed its own ringtone.  When her phone rang with its strange tone the first time she didn’t realize it was her phone.  Eventually this woman took the phone in hand to explore exactly which settings had mysteriously changed themselves so that her familiar ringtone had disappeared and been replaced with a tone completely foreign to its owner.

It is not uncommon for me to have devote energy like this to ‘connecting’ sounds with their sources in my environment (including the sounds of voices to the words that are being spoken).  It would be simple, perhaps, to say that these experiences when I have them are ‘just’ part of my posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

I don’t have an option of jumping into a non-trauma formed body.  I have to live in this body that has experienced so much severe trauma that it will NEVER react to the environment I am in with normal responses.

I know that my experience over 4 years ago with heavy chemotherapy for advanced, aggressive breast cancer reawakened my childhood body’s response patterns to much of my life.  Most fortunately as I grew older within my severely abusive home of origin I LEARNED ways to get along in the world that kept the ‘3 Ds’ from overly interfering with my ability to get along in a ‘normal’ world.

Unfortunately there was something about how the chemotherapy drugs affected by body-brain that seemed to have erased most of what I LEARNED about these ways to get along.  It is very unsettling, and at times so discouraging and disheartening – and scary – to be in my body TODAY as I now understand this is how I felt ALL of the time in my earliest years of life (probably before age 11).

Between age 11 and age 18 I found/learned/invented/developed ‘detours’ around the major impact of the ‘3 Ds’.  I was very fortunate.  Most of those detours seem to be gone.  I am left today feeling very strange in a world that exists as overlapping remote movies – my own included – that do not feel as if they have a single thing to do with me.

I can get along being a stranger in my own body in my own life and in the world around me, but I feel fragile and vulnerable as if the slightest SURPRISE could literally startle/scare me out of my own skin (my “body suit” as in the movie “Men in Black”).  All the TERROR I felt from the horrors of 18 years of traumatic abuse has gone NOWHERE.  It is ALL remembered in my body.  I again lack adequate filters to screen out what my body knows about being in the world — without me really being in it.

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4 thoughts on “+GIVING VOICE TO THE INEXPLICABLE: DISSOCIATION – DEPERSONALIZATION – DEREALIZATION

  1. You explained this so well, despite the fact that there is no vocabulary in the language to describe these feelings, or more relevantly, lack of feelings.

    I was trying to explain it to a friend a few days ago. The best thing I could come up with was, “it’s like being behind a pane of glass – I can see everything on the other side, I can make out the murmurings of sound, but I just can’t interact with it – it’s too distanced even though it’s right in front of me.”

    Thank you for posting this. Sometimes, I feel so insane. I live with two of the presently-intense people you could ever meet, and I feel as if I’m an alien in my own house. It’s nice to read of someone else’s similar experiences: it’s sad to know you’re experiencing dissociation, but happy to know you have the bravery to speak out about it.

    • WOW – Your mention of the pane of glass. About 20 years ago I had a very clear dream. I was wandering around in a mall (and I am so NOT a shopping kind of person but think this was in part a representation of just the mundane, material side of life).

      I turned down a hallway and walked a ways and there on the right was an entire huge wall of the mall made of gigantic panes of glass. The lower panes were smaller, and some were pushed open toward the inside. I could see all kinds of happy people ‘playing’ with joy among wonderously green bushes, flowers, under big trees. There were little natural springs of water gurgling. Behind this big view I could see the most glorious rose color in the sky as the sun was rising. On either side of the rose was pitch black night sky filled with zillions of bright, sparkling points of light.

      I thought of trying to climb through one of those open windows to join the happy people — but knew I could not. The world I was left standing in alone on my side was so stark and harsh and lifeless.

      I have never really known what the dream was telling me. Long ago I told someone and they said “Beware of openings in dreams. It is best not to enter them because often they represent some kind of trick to lead you in a direction you should not go.”

      I don’t know. But I do know exactly what you are describing. Increasingly I try to pay close attention to these feelings I have, along with my depression/deep sadness I have had since I was a tiny abused girl, and my anxiety — and realize these feelings are IN MY BODY, are built into my body from severe trauma — and that I have what I call my ‘earth self’ and most importantly my SOUL self that just have difficulty experiencing my life fully (and yes, the colors in that dream world were so INTENSE!) because of what’s in my body!

      Sending much love! So glad to hear from you! Linda – alchemynow

  2. You’ve captured the “3 D’s” so perfectly. They’re so hard to explain. I know. Everything is a movie, and there are different characters and plots and motives and moods and numbed emotions in each–and we are each of those things. Me too–from early early childhood and up. I’m sorry your break with being able to move around the D’s happened during yet another horrifying experience. Mine broke when I at last felt safe enough with love with my fiancé. The comfort was too much for this body hard-wired for anxiety, high-alert, and high attack-mode. After awhile my fiancé started stressing me out so bad he would cause me to dissociate for days–out there in the death-promising ether. Shit. Look at what we’ve been through and how we are now. And just say SHIT. What else is there? Thank you for opening and sharing your honesty.

    • Thank you. This was, as you know, a very personal post — and it took courage and daring and “what the HELL” to write it. There are so many ways these patterns in our body/brain can be triggered!! I’m not sure why NOW – today – the movie sensation, the 3Ds were so strong. I am wondering if this is connected to my perhaps ‘coming up out of’ the major depression I’ve been experiencing very strongly these past 6 weeks or so.

      That’s interesting to my Spockonian brain if this is true — that coming UP out of a depression episode would come THROUGH this strong 3D experience.

      Even post-chemo I don’t always feel the 3Ds – often I can keep them at bay somehow. I’m not sure professionals are interested in researching these things – or in helping us understand how to ‘manage’ better

      I was also thinking about self-harm – something I have been blessed not to feel compelled to do — but I thought about how some people might resort to self-harm to FEEL their body, to FEEL being connected to/in/a part of their body.

      I am 60 now, and very clear that it is not possible for me to have a committed intimate relationship in this lifetime — I believe you know what I mean.

      LOVE TO US — and, yes, SHIT IS what this came from and feels like!!

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